he said/she said

Bloomberg disputes Tisch's assessment of struggling schools

On the same day that she spent time denying weeks-old rumors about being the future mayor, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was rebuked by the current one.

Speaking with reporters in the Bronx today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took aim at Tisch’s characterization that the Department of Education had “warehoused thousands of kids” in failing schools. Tisch made the comments to the editorial board of the New York Daily News after visiting Brooklyn’s Automotive High School, which started undergoing federally funded “restart” this year.

“She’s totally wrong on the facts,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know where she got that from. … She’s obviously been misinformed.”

But Tisch had backed up her statement not with hard facts but with anecdotal evidence about what she saw in Automotive’s classrooms and hallways. “No one’s in the class and kids are wandering around the hallway. I couldn’t tell me for the life of me what the instruction was,” Tisch told the Daily News.

Bloomberg, whose administration has relied on data to drive school improvement, said today that Tisch’s approach to identifying and solving problems in schools is misguided:

You can’t run a school system on anecdotal evidence. We have a 1.1 million students to take care of and you can’t run it on … you have to have numbers. You have to have reality and take a look and see. You’re not going to help every kid but we have made enormous progress. I dont think there’s any school system in the country that has taken a school like the one she talked about and made as many improvements as we have have. Are they all going to be ready for Harvard, Yale or Princeton? No. And, incidentally, neither was I when I graduated school.

In a follow-up phone call, Tisch said her visit to Automotive was meant to tally how the city is using federal School Improvement Grants for struggling schools — and that she didn’t like what she saw.

“We stand by what we saw in the schools,” Tisch said of the visits. “We wanted to have a sense of what was going on with the schools that were targeted with the SIG grants. … The bottom line is we can’t spend money on creating effective schools unless the conditions are right to receive that money.”

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.